My PhD and two postdoc projects were dedicated to the study of information structure, word order and syntax-prosody relations. While finishing the second project, I started working with colleagues and students in Russia and launched several experimental studies of morphology and syntax. Then my interests became much wider — resulting projects are presented below. Some are going on for several years, some are finished, the others are just starting. I work primarily on Russian because whichever topic I turn to — from letter identification to reading texts — it turns out that very few or no experiments have been conducted and that Russian has something new to offer.
After every project, I list the most important publications reflecting its results, my collaborators and students who contributed to it. Wherever earlier publications, e.g. in conference proceedings, were superseded by subsequent journal articles, only the latter are shown.
Here is a longer list of selected publications with download links. If the findings have not been written up yet, they are reflected in my conference presentations.

1. Grammatical gender and case. Agreement in number, case, gender and person

1a. Agreement.
This project is dedicated to the study of agreement in number, gender, case and — to a lesser extent — person. Agreement is one of the most basic mechanisms in the grammar, and the project also sheds new light on the nature of features (for example, on the problem of feature markedness), as well as on some other topics — for example, on the role of morphological ambiguity, or syncretism, in the mental grammar. We mostly used behavioral experiments, but also conducted one EEG and one fMRI study.
The phenomenon of agreement attraction (specific agreement errors that are often produced and easily missed by native speakers, which gives us a window into the mechanisms of agreement) drew attention of many researchers around the world, so we started out studying it in Russian. We were the first to study gender agreement attraction in comprehension, the role of systematic and accidental syncretism in production and processing of number agreement attraction, as well as the processes similar (but not identical) to attraction in case agreement. I also took part in the study of person agreement attraction led by Anna Laurinavichyute. Through this project, I got interested in gender and case features in a more general context.

1b. Gender. Now we study how different semantic and formal properties of the noun interact with its gender features in the mental grammar. We look at expressive nouns (with diminutive and augmentative affixes), nouns denoting professions (feminitives, both established and newly formed, as well as historically masculine nouns that now can be used as common gender nouns with feminine agreement — but not all of them and not in all syntactic contexts), at nouns with different stem-final consonants and affixes, at recent borrowings etc. We use production and comprehension experiments and different corpora.

1c. Case. We started a big project dedicated to the acquisition of case system and case processing in Russian as a foreign language (see project 6) and conducted several experiments examining case processing by native speakers. Most previous studies, both in Russian and in other languages, looked at different case forms presented in isolation, while we analyze them in a sentential context. In addition to that, we compared processing of case and number agreement in the context of modifier attachment ambiguity (with participial constructions).

Collaborators: Varvara Magomedova (while doing her PhD at SUNY Stony Brook, before and after that), Anton Malko (while doing his PhD at the University of Maryland and before), Natalia Cherepovskaia (while doing her PhD at the University Pompeu Fabra and before), Daria Chernova (Saint Petersburg State University), Svetlana Alexeeva (Saint Petersburg State University), Anna Laurinavichyute (HSE, Moscow, and Potsdam University). Students: Yulia Vakulenko, Ekaterina Nikulina, Anna Stetsenko, Tatiana Matyushkina, Pavel Shilin, Alexander Nozdrin, Natalia Chuprasova, Anastasia Generalova, Maria Chebkasova, Maya Korotkaya, Regina Starovoytova, Krill Bursov, Anton Guldinsky, Daria Alfimova, Elizaveta Vilenchik, Daria Antropova, Marina Frolova, Daria Petrova, Polina Makarova.

Magomedova, V., & Slioussar, N. (2021). Gender and case in Russian nouns denoting professions and social roles.
Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 20, 483-491.
Chernova, D., Slioussar, N., & Alexeeva, S. (2020). Orthographic processing of Russian case forms in sentential context. Tomsk State University Journal, 454, 45–54.
Slioussar, N. (2018a). Forms and features: the role of syncretism in number agreement attraction. Journal of Memory and Language, 101, 51–63.
Slioussar, N. (2018b). Gender, declension and stem-final consonants: An experimental study of gender agreement in Russian.
Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 17, 688-700.
Slioussar, N., Stetsenko, A., & Matyushkina, T. (2017). Producing case errors in Russian. In: Y. Oseki et al. (eds.).
Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The New York Meeting 2015 (pp. 363-379). Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Publications.
Chernova, D., Slioussar, N., Prokopenya, V., Petrova, T., & Chernigovskaya, T. (2016). Eksperimental'nye issledovanija grammatiki: sintaksičeskij analiz neodnoznačnyx predloženij (in Russian, ‘Experimental studies of the grammar: syntactic analysis of ambiguous sentences’).
Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 6, 36-50.
Slioussar, N., & Malko, A. (2016). Gender agreement attraction in Russian: production and comprehension evidence.
Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1651.
Slioussar, N., & Cherepovskaia, N. (2014). Case errors in processing: Evidence from Russian. In: C. Chapman, O. Kit, & I. Kučerova (eds.).
Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The First Hamilton Meeting 2013 (pp. 319-338). Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Publications.

2. Inflectional morphology in the brain

How we produce and process different word forms is one of the main topics in experimental linguistics. In this project, we used neuroimaging methods (fMRI and EEG) to find out whether these is a principled difference between regular and irregular forms, and, if yes, what the nature of regularity is: is it associated with type frequency, productivity or defaultness? Almost all previous fMRI and EEG studies focusing on morphological regularity were conducted on languages with relatively poor morphology, so Russian allows addressing this problem on a new level, teasing apart the role of different factors. Recently, we conducted an EEG experiment and observed a difference between regular and irregular verbs that is very similar to the AoA (age of acquisition) effect — in the previous studies, such effects were found for words with a different AoA, but not for inflectional classes.

Collaborators: Maxim Kireev and his colleagues from the N.P. Bekhtereva Institute of the Human Brain, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pavel Shilin (while doing his PhD at the IHB RAS).

Slioussar, N., Kireev, M.V., Chernigovskaya, T.V., Kataeva, G.V., Korotkov, A.D., & Medvedev, S.V. (2014). An ER-fMRI study of Russian inflectional morphology.
Brain and Language, 130, 33-41. Doi 10.1016/j.bandl.2014.01.006.
Kireev, M.V., Slioussar, N., Chernigovskaya, T.V., Korotkov, A.D., & Medvedev, S.V. (2015). Changes in functional connectivity within the fronto-temporal brain network induced by regular and irregular Russian verb production.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 36. Doi 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00036.
Kireev, M.V., Slioussar, N.A., Korotkov, A.D., Kotomin, I.A., Masharipov, R.S., Chernigovskaya, T.V., & Medvedev, S.V. (2020). Reorganization of functional interactions in the frontotemporal system of the human brain during production of Russian verbs.
Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology, 50, 349-357 Doi: 10.1007/s11055-020-00907-0.
Slioussar, N., Kireev, M.V., Korotkov, A.D., & Medvedev, S.V. (2020).
Exploring the nature of morphological regularity: an fMRI study on Russian. Submitted ms.

3. Consonant mutations and language change

Some Russian words have stem-final consonant mutations: e.g.
ruka ‘hand’ – ručka ‘handle, small hand’, nosit’ ‘to wear, to carry’ – nošu ‘wear1SG’. Using experimental studies and corpus research, we showed that these mutations are slowly decaying. Russian speakers often produce forms like molodee ‘younger’ instead of molože and experience even more difficulties with recent borrowings that are not part of literary language like frendit’ ‘to add to one’s friend list’, fotošopit’ ‘to photoshop’. Studying how different factors (phonological, morphological and semantic properties of words, token and type frequency, productivity, the literary norm) affect this process gives us new information on representing such information in the mental lexicon and grammar and on the mechanisms of language change. We also compared Russian to Ukrainian and Belorussian in which the situation with mutations is different in some respects.

Collaborators: Varvara Magomedova (while doing her PhD at SUNY Stony Brook, before and after that), Maria Kholodilova (HSE, Saint Petersburg). Students: Anna Smetina.

Magomedova, V., & Slioussar, N. (2014). Dannye interneta v issledovanii jazykovyx izmenenij: analiz čeredovanij v russkix komparativax i programma dlja raboty s takimi dannymi (in Russian, ‘Internet data in the study of language change: A case study of alternations in Russian comparatives and a program to work with such data’).
Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 13, 379-390.
Magomedova, V., & Slioussar, N. (2017). Paradigm leveling: The decay of consonant alternations in Russian. In: F. Kiefer et al. (eds.),
Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses (pp. 123-137). Leiden: Brill. Doi 10.1163/9789004342934_007.
Magomedova, V., & Slioussar, N. (2017). Stem-final consonant mutations in modern Russian. In: Y. Oseki et al. (eds.). Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The New York Meeting 2015. Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Publications. P. 239-259.
Slioussar, N., & Kholodilova, M. (2013). Paradigm leveling in non-standard Russian. In: A. Podobryaev et al. (eds.). Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The Second MIT Meeting 2011 (pp. 243-258). Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan University Press. Download.

4. Orthographic neighbors and early stages of visual word recognition

A skilled reader does not read letter-by-letter — on an intuitive level, the fact that we often mix orthographically similar words or do not notice typos can serve as evidence. Approaching this question from a scientific perspective, linguists also rely on experiments with orthographic neighbors — words and pseudowords with similar spelling. We were the first to conduct such experiments on Russian, focusing on the feature that distinguishes it from previously studied languages: its rich morphology (it is interesting to find out how the process of letter identification and subsequent lexical access interacts with morphological analysis).
A related project explores how the overall frequency of spelling errors in a given word influences its processing (even when it is spelled correctly). We also discovered that different types of orthographic errors behave differently in this respect and created a test to measure spelling skills. Finally, we studied parafoveal processing (the role of word length and neighbourhood effects).

Collaborators: Svetlana Alexeeva (Saint Petersburg State University), Daria Chernova (Saint Petersburg State University). Students: Anastasia Petrova, Ekaterina Rudova, Taisia Metelkina, Nazar Krotov, Anastasia Udodenko, Ivan Gurkov.

Chernova., D., Alexeeva, S., & Slioussar, N. (2020). Chemu nas uchat oshibki: trudnosti pri obrabotke slov s chastotnymi orfograficheskimi oshibkami (in Russian, ‘What do we learn from mistakes: processing difficulties with frequently misspelled words’).
Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 19, 132-144.
Alexeeva, S., & Slioussar, N. (2017). Effekt dliny pri parafoveal'noj obrabotke slov vo vremja čtenija (in Russian, ‘Parafoveal processing in reading: the role of word length’).
Tomsk State University Journal: Philology, 45, 5-29. Doi: 10.17223/19986645/45/1.
Slioussar, N., & Alexeeva, S. (2017). Orfograficheskie sosedi s zamenoj bukvy pri izuchenii mexanizmov leksicheskogo dostupa (in Russian: “Substitution orthographic neighbors in the study of lexical access”).
Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 16, 407-418.

5. Linguistic databases

Selecting stimuli with particular properties is a crucial stage of experimental research, and it is often hard or downright impossible to do without a searchable lexical database. We created StimulStat — the first lexical database for Russian in the form of a web application (http://stimul.cognitivestudies.ru). The database contains more than 50,000 most frequent Russian words (1.7 million word forms). These words and forms are characterized according to more than 70 properties, including frequency, length, phonological and grammatical properties, orthographic neighbourhood frequency and size, homonymy and polysemy. Some properties were retrieved from various dictionaries and presented collectively in a searchable form for the first time, the others were computed specifically for the database. In the paper describing the database we also present some interesting crosslinguistic differences that can be identified using such databases.
Another small database we created contains information on frequency of various grammatical features of Russian nouns, based on the disambiguated subcorpus of the Russian National Corpus (RNC). One of the goals was to determine how frequent forms of nouns in different genders, cases and numbers, animate and inanimate nouns are, and how these characteristics depend on the inflectional paradigms (on the inflectional class and the stem type of the noun). The second goal was to determine the frequency of forms with different endings (depending on case, number, gender and inflectional class or not taking them into account). The database is available
here and here. In addition to that, during my BA/MA studies I created a database of Russian verbs.

Collaborators: Svetlana Alexeeva (Saint Petersburg State University), Daria Chernova (Saint Petersburg State University). Students: Maria Samojlova, Pavel Prokopiev, Vladislav Meletyagin, Nikita Narchuk.

Alexeeva, S., Slioussar, N., & Chernova, D. (2018). StimulStat: a lexical database for Russian. Behavior Research Methods, 50, 2305-2315. Оnline first in 2017. Doi: 10.3758/s13428-017-0994-3.
Slioussar, N., & Samojlova M. (2015). Častotnosti različnyx grammatičeskix xarakteristik i okončanij u suščestvitel’nyx russkogo jazyka (in Russian, ‘Frequencies of different grammatical features and inflectional affixes in Russian nouns’).
Proceedings of the conference ‘Dialogue 20’, http://www.dialog-21.ru/digests/dialog2015/materials/pdf/SlioussarNASamoilovaMV.pdf.

6. Inflectional morphology (primarily case) in Russian as a foreign language: acquisition and processing

It has been extensively studied how Russian children acquire the case system, but we know much less about mastering this crucial piece of Russian grammar when learning Russian as a foreign, or second, language (L2). Firstly, using written texts elicited from Catalan students with different proficiency levels, we established the order in which cases are acquired (nominative, locative, accusative, genitive, instrumental, dative), as well as certain characteristics of their acquisition trajectories. We argue that the order of acquisition is determined by two groups of factors: how essential a given case is for successful language use and how complex it is, both semantically and morphologically. Many important differences between the first and second language acquisition were identified. We show that the maturation of the case system can be observed both in the number of correct case forms participants produced and in error rates — this is important because many L2 studies tend to focus on errors ignoring the correct forms.
Secondly, we conducted experiments targeting different aspects of L2 case processing. Native speakers of Catalan, Spanish and English with different levels of L2 Russian took part in them. As a result, we could contribute to the main debate in the field of L2 processing: how and why it is different from L1 processing and which mechanisms they share. Now we are extending this project to study L2 acquisition and processing of other morphological features in Russian and to involve participants with other L1s to assess the role of the native language.

Collaborators: Natalia Cherepovskaia (while doing her PhD at the University Pompeu Fabra and before), Anna Denissenko (while doing her PhD at the University Pompeu Fabra), Maria Grabovskaya (while doing her PhD at HSE, Moscow), Anastasia Ivanenko (while doing her PhD at HSE, Moscow). Students: Elizaveta Reutova.

Cherepovskaia, N., Reutova, E., & Slioussar, N. (2021). Becoming native-like for good or ill: Online and offline processing of case forms in l2 Russian.
Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 652463. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.652463.
Cherepovskaia, N., Slioussar, N., & Denissenko, A. (2021). Acquisition of the nominal case system in Russian as a second language.
Second Language Research, online first. Doi: 10.1177/0267658320988058.

7. Information structure (IS), word order and prosody in Russian

After a four-year break, I came back to the topics I studied before 2014 — but this time together with the students from the Laboratory of Formal Methods in Linguistics and some other coauthors. We used corpus and experimental methods to study SOV and VSO constructions, constructions with fronted foci, and the role of syntactic and prosodic means used to encode IS in production and in comprehension. The last question was also explored for Adyghe (also known as West Circassian), a language from the Northwest Caucasian family spoken in the Republic of Adygea in Russia.

Collaborators: Svetlana Toldova (HSE, Moscow), Natalia Tyshkevich (MSSES, Moscow), Sofiya Popova (while doing her PhD at Utrecht University and before). Students: Ilya Makarchuk, Denis Rahman, Anastasia Sidorova, Maxim Bazhukov, Lyubov Chubarova, Anton Buzanov, Zinaida Budilova.

Bazhukov M., Chubarova L, Slioussar N., & Toldova S. (2021). The order of objects in Russian: A corpus study. Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 20, 68-78.
Slioussar N., & Popova S.
Production and comprehension of different means to encode Information Structure: an experimental study on Russian. Submitted ms.

8. Reading in L1 vs. in L2

Even when we know a foreign language really well, we feel that reading in the native language is different. But what exactly is different and which factors influence these differences?

8a. The Multilingual Eye-tracking Corpus (MECO)

Reading relies on different competences: orthographic and phonological competence, vocabulary size etc. Working memory and general intelligence may also play a role. To assess how these competences contribute to L1 and L2 reading and how your L1 and your L1 reading habits influence your reading in L2, we take part in the MECO project coordinated by Viktor Kuperman and his team at MacMaster University, Canada (initially, 12 labs participated, but the number is growing). Every lab collected data from 50 or more speakers with different L1s who read 12 texts in their native language and 12 texts in English (only participants with upper intermediate level of English as an L2 are recruited). Thus, this is not only the largest cross-linguistic eye-tracking project, but also a project focusing on texts rather than individual sentences, which is not so common for eye-tracking corpora. In addition to reading texts, participants passed many tests assessing the above-mentioned skills in L1 and/or in L2 (as well as the test on non-verbal intelligence that does not involve any language). For English, all these tests were readily available, but additional work was required for Russian (see Smaller projects). The MacMaster team collected the data from the control group with L1 English. Two papers presenting the general outcome of the project are under review.

8b. L2 Russian Sentence Corpus

Many things we know about reading come from eye-tracking sentence corpora. Sentences for such corpora are selected following special criteria to represent lexical and syntactic diversity of a given language. For Russian, the Russian Sentence Corpus was created, but it cannot be used for non-native readers. We are currently working on a corpus for L2 learners of Russian.

Local collaborators: Svetlana Alexeeva (Saint Petersburg State University), Daria Chernova (Saint Petersburg State University). Students: Elizaveta Kuzmina, Marina Norkina.


9. Some smaller projects (or the projects where my contribution was smaller)

Testing different skills of Russian readers. After we got involved in the MECO project (see 8a), we got interested in developing tests to assess different linguistic competences in Russian. We created a Russian version of the Author Recognition Test to assess print exposure, a test to assess orthographic skills and a test to assess the ability to parse complex syntactic structures. Now we are in the process of publishing our results.
Collaborators: Daria Chernova, Svetlana Alexeeva. Students: Polina Bakhturina, Artem Novozhilov.


The syntax of second-position clitics in Russian. Old Russian used to have many second-position, or Wackernagel, clitics, but then most of them were lost, and a couple of remaining ones changed their syntactic properties. We studied different factors that affect this change primarily on the example of the particle že, also focusing on a wider problem: how we can fruitfully combine data from corpus-based and experimental research (when these two sources give the same results and when they do not, and why).
Collaborators: Evdokia Valova (while doing her PhD at HSE, Moscow). Students: Daria Tamilina.

Valova, E., & Slioussar, N. (2016). Sravnenie korpusnogo i eksperimental'nogo metoda na primere issledovanija sintaksičeskix svojstv enklitiki ‘že’ (in Russian, ‘Comparing corpus-based and experimental research methods: a study of the syntactic properties of the Russian enclitic ‘zhe’’). Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, 15, 792-802.
Valova, E., & Slioussar, N. (2017). Issledovanie sintaksičeskix svojstv enklitiki ‘že’: korpusnyj i eksperimental'nyj podhod (in Russian, ‘Syntactic properties of the Russian enclitic ‘zhe’: a corpus-based and an experimental approach’).
Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2, 33-48.

Control violation in converbial clauses in Russian. Errors like Proezžaja pod mostom, u menja sletela šljapa ‘Passing under the bridge, my hat flew off’ are familiar to every speaker of Russian — we are all instructed not to make them and still do so once in a while. In this project, we study semantic and syntactic factors that influence the incidence of these errors in different corpora and their processing in the experimental settings, drawing conclusions for the syntactic theory of control.
Collaborators: Natalia Zevakhina (HSE, Moscow), Svetlana Puzhaeva-Zhukova (while doing her PhD at HSE, Moscow, and before). Students: Evgeny Glazunov.
Zhukova S., Zevakhina N., Slioussar N., & Glazunov E. (2020). Non-canonical control in Russian converbial clauses.
Russian Linguistics, 44, 129-143. Doi: 10.1007/s11185-020-09229-8.

The syntax of prepositional phrases in Russian. When we say zaxodi ko mne na rabotu, this literally translates as ‘come to me to office’, but means ‘come to my office’. This small project focused on syntactic and semantic mechanisms allowing locative prepositional phrases to develop this possessive meaning in Russian.
Collaborators: Ora Matushansky (SFL (CNRS/Université Paris 8/UPL), Utrecht University), Nora Boneh (the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Lea Nash (SFL (CNRS/Université Paris 8/UPL)).
Matushansky, O., Boneh, N., Nash, L., & Slioussar, N. (2020). To PPs in their proper place. In: T. Ionin & J.E. MacDonald (eds.). Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The Urbana-Champaign Meeting 2017 (pp. 228-245). Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Publications.

The Possible Word Constraint, or PWC. The PWC is a principle regulating segmentation of continuous speech, according to which word boundaries should not be postulated if a remaining segment contains only consonants because this is not a feasible word. The PWC was initially formulated for English and claimed to hold universally after being confirmed for various other languages. Languages allowing for words without vowels present a challenge to the PWC, but, before we started our project, only two studies were conducted and their results did not converge. Our experiments on Russian, a language that has several single-consonant words (prepositions and particles), addressed several problems from the previous studies and eventually demonstrated that the PWC does not operate in Russian, undermining the claim about its universality.
Collaborators: Svetlana Alexeeva (Saint Petersburg State University). Students: Anastasia Frolova.
Alexeeva, S., Frolova, A., & Slioussar, N. (2017). Data from Russian help to determine in which languages the Possible Word Constraint applies.
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 46, 629-640. Doi 10.1007/s10936-016-9458-7.

Derivational morphology in the mental lexicon. Russian is rich in derivational morphology: it is possible to form many new words using various prefixes and suffixes. In this project, we ask how derived words are connected to their base word in the mental lexicon, whether and how they influence lexical access to it, and which connections are closer: formed by suffixation or by prefixation.
Collaborators: Anastasia Chuprina (while doing her PhD at HSE, Moscow, and before).
Slioussar, N., & Chuprina, A. (2016). How derivational links affect lexical access: evidence from Russian verbs and nouns.
Italian Journal of Linguistics, 28, 115-136.

Processing metaphors. Despite extensive research, what mechanisms are involved in understanding metaphors is still a matter of debate. In particular, it is unclear whether while processing metaphoric expressions, we also access their literal meaning and, if yes, whether it is easier or more difficult to process (either because it is accessed first, or because it is computed compositionally, while metaphoric expressions are stored and retrieved as a whole). Our experiments demonstrated that the answer depends on the type of metaphor (novel, conventional, idiomatic).
Collaborators: Natalia Cherepovskaia (while doing her PhD at the University Pompeu Fabra and before), Tatiana Petrova (Saint Petersburg State University) and other colleagues from the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies, Saint Petersburg State University.
Slioussar, N., Petrova, T., Mikhailovskaya, E., Cherepovskaia, N., Prokopenya, V., Chernova, D., & Chernigovskaya, T. (2017). Eksperimental'nye issledovanija grammatiki: slovosočetanija s bukval'nym i nebukval'nym značeniem (in Russian, ‘Experimental studies of the grammar: expressions with literal and non-literal meaning’). Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 3, 83-98.
Cherepovskaia, N., & Slioussar, N. (2014). Comprehending metaphors of different types: Evidence from Russian. In: V. Torrens & L. Escobar (eds.).
Papers on the processing of lexicon and syntax (pp. 25-42). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.